Dead people's clothes: Materialising mourning and memory in ancient Rome

Hope, Valerie (2018). Dead people's clothes: Materialising mourning and memory in ancient Rome. In: Newby, Zahra and Toulson, Ruth eds. The Materiality of Mourning: Cross-disciplinary Perspectives. London: Routledge, pp. 23–39.



This chapter investigates the role of clothing in Roman mourning and memory construction, considering the clothes worn by the dead and items of clothing that passed from the dead to the living. Besides what was disposed of with the corpse, what happened to a dead person's clothes? Were surviving clothing items treasured, and imbued with meaning, or were they destroyed or sold? Evidence that highlights the fate of a dead person's clothes is evaluated. This includes Julius Caesar's bloodstained toga, clothes mentioned in wills and re-used garments labelled with the names of the dead. Clothes were more than just bodily coverings, and the clothes of the dead were objects that were viewed, touched and smelled, and could be preserved or discarded. Dress was symbolic of loss and grief, and individual items of clothing could be invested with emotion and memories. Clothes and textiles could serve as mementos of the dead, and as mementos of mourning.

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